Recent data points to continued growth in tourism and travel businesses in the Fort Smith metro, with hospitality tax revenue and collections of the state’s 2% tourism tax beating statewide collection gains.
Hospitality tax revenue (hotel tax only) totaled $790,603 through the first 10 months of 2019, up 8.1% from the $731,694 during the same period in 2018. Hospitality tax revenue (hotel and prepared food tax) totaled $527,262 through the first 10 months of 2019, up 3.7% from the $508,369 during the same period in 2018. Both cities beat the gains reported in the recent Arkansas Tourism Ticker. Results for the Jan.-October 2019 Tourism Ticker report are:
• 5.3% increase
Hospitality tax revenue in Jan.-October 2019 among 17 Arkansas cities reviewed for the Arkansas Tourism Ticker compared with the same period in 2018
• 7% increase
Collections of Arkansas’ 2% statewide tourism tax in Jan.-October 2019 compared with the same period in 2018
• 4.45% increase
Increase in monthly average of Arkansas’ tourism industry jobs in Jan.-October 2019 compared with the same period in 2018
The Arkansas Tourism Ticker is managed by Talk Business & Politics, and sponsored by the Arkansas Hospitality Association.
Maryl Purvis, director of the Van Buren Advertising & Promotion Commission, said the region has enjoyed “promising growth for tourism” during 2019.
“Van Buren’s Main Street Historic District added two new restaurants and several new shops in addition to the groundbreaking for the Arts on Main cultural center. The city of Van Buren was awarded a grant for streetscaping and other infrastructure improvements in the downtown area which will provide a vital component to the overall revitalization effort. Fort Smith’s completion of the U.S. Marshal’s Museum building is a giant step in providing an attraction that will have international appeal for our area once the exhibits are in place,” Koeth said.
The average number of Fort Smith metro monthly jobs between January and October was 9,550, up 0.7% from the 9,480 in the same period of 2018. The average number of jobs is up 13% compared to the same period in 2010. Average monthly job growth between January and October in Northwest Arkansas was down 3.3%, up 3.7% in central Arkansas, and up 1.8% in Texarkana.
Collection of Arkansas’ 2% tourism tax in Sebastian County was $563,005 for the first 10 months of 2019, up 10.08% compared to the same period in 2018. Collection of the tax in Crawford County for the first 10 months was $159,824, up 8.75% from the 2018 period. Collections in both cities beat the 7% statewide gain for the tax.
Purvis also said the region is working on amenities that should support future growth in the travel and tourism industry.
“The continued focus on hiking and biking trails in both communities and discussion on connecting those trail systems will grow our outdoor recreation that is important not just for tourism, but for those amenities necessary to attract and retain businesses and employees. I think we will see more focus on the arts, entertainment and outdoor recreation in the region for 2020,” she said.